Introducing a new column by art blogger Paddy Johnson (artfagcity.com)
“Always beware of thinking that anything in the art-world is new,” Team Gallery owner Jose Freire warns me when I ask him if the recent flurry of partnerships between galleries launching joint solo exhibitions was a trend. I probably wouldn’t have been so put off by the response if it wasn’t followed by a sentiment suggesting Chelsea regulars such as myself should know better. “Gallery collaborations are a matter of public record,” he chides. “In the years that I’ve been working in New York, there have been myriad instances of these kinds of cooperative relationships.” In addition to the current Banks Violette pairing between Team and mega blue chip gallery Barbara Gladstone, Freire cites a number of noteworthy collaborations including Mary Boone and Leo Castelli exhibiting Michael Werner, and Metro Pictures and Fredrick Petzel working together on a joint Keith Edmier show.
The dealer’s right, of course. A rich history of partnership exists among galleries, but certainly, increased activity within the fine art world, such as the growing number of exhibition spaces popping up all over the city, magnifies these relationships. The tradition exists for all the benefits you might assume come to galleries and artists who choose to work this way, not the least of which is increased exposure. “I think it really allows the artist to be able do everything that they want to do,” says Metro Pictures director Allison Card, who worked closely with Foxy Production on Sterling Ruby’s joint exhibition. “Sometimes a smaller gallery cannot accommodate everything, and obviously the larger galleries can. We’re able to back more projects and provide a larger space.”
With all the benefits Card lays out to artists who work with larger galleries, one has to wonder why anyone would choose to keep smaller representation in the first place. After all, why not work exclusively with the gallery offering the most resources? “Maybe a few years ago it might have been more common for an artist to leave for a more established gallery,” Card’s collaborator at Foxy, Michael Gillespie, tells me in a separate interview. “The danger in that is that they would become established too early, and it would take the energy out of the work and the way it’s being received as well… it’s good to keep an artist young in a way.”
Given the amount of movement I’ve seen over the last year, I can’t imagine there’s the loyalty between gallerists and artists Gillespie suggests. However, this very activity may also explain the waning interest in who’s switching representation and why. The scale of the New York gallery world has increased so dramatically over the last few years it’s literally impossible to keep track of — and so have the stakes. While market expansion in part fosters these collaborative efforts, it is also uniquely vitalized by them.